File picture: African News Agency (ANA)

BLOEMFONTEIN - The ANC government has failed border communities and must be held directly responsible for the trauma suffered by victims of cross-border crimes, the Democratic Alliance said on Sunday.

In a statement following a DA oversight inspections of the Ficksburg border post in Mantsopa and Van Rooyen’s Gate border post in Wepner by DA Free State premier candidate Patricia Kopane and Team One SA spokesperson on immigration Jacques Julius, Kopane said South Africa's borders had become "free for all".

"If you live in a community close to the Lesotho-South Africa border, you are likely to be robbed in your home or brutally murdered because the ANC government has no regard for your life. These sentiments were shared by residents, local business owners, and rural communities who live with the everyday reality of rampant cross-border crimes such as robbery, murder, smuggling of illicit goods, and stock theft as a result of the country’s porous borders," she said.

"The ANC government has failed border communities and must be held directly responsible for the trauma suffered by victims of cross-border crimes."

The ever present danger of falling victim to these crimes was made worse by the ANC’s chronic inability to deploy sufficient and fit-for-purpose immigration officers, military personnel to guard the borders, and an honest, professional police service to clamp down on crime.

At the Caledon River, the border fence had been broken down and this allowed Lesotho nationals to come into South Africa without proper documentation. Their cattle were allowed to graze freely on the vast piece of land separating the two countries, which posed a number of risks for the local herd. Recently, foot and mouth disease had been detected in Limpopo and the Free State, and unrestrained contact with animals from other countries could worsen the problem, Kopane said.

"The failing ANC has shown time and again that it is not committed to secure our borders and the livelihoods of border communities. An outbreak of foot and mouth disease will kill local businesses, lead to loss of jobs, and negatively affect the agricultural economy. According to Agriculture Free State, farmers have lost more than R7 billion to stock theft and stolen agricultural equipment," she said.

"Our borders have become a free for all and make it easy for illegal immigrants to commit crime and gain easy access to our already stretched resources such as healthcare and social assistance.

"The DA’s message is clear, whether you are from Swaziland or Switzerland, you must be in the country legally. The failing ANC has, however, aided and abetted the indiscriminate movement of undocumented individuals who find it easy to break our laws with impunity once they are here because they cannot be traced," Kopane said.

The once-thriving border communities had been left in the lurch and the stagnant economy had been put under severe strain. The future of young people was being destroyed by the easy flow of drugs in the streets and the lure to get involved in crime syndicates because of poverty and joblessness.

"This is why the DA is fighting for an immigration system that supports immigrants who will come here to work, create jobs, and contribute to the country’s economic growth. The DA is calling on all South Africans to register [for the 2019 elections] in their numbers and vote for a DA government that will not only guarantee their personal safety through secure borders, but will also promote a humane immigration system for a One South Africa for All," Kopane said.

African News Agency (ANA)